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2018 Russia World Cup: VAR in force

By Jonathan Copping, Stone King LLP, London, UK The 2018 World Cup in Russia kicked off on 14 June with the host nation beating Saudi Arabia 5-0. The matches that have taken place since then have been enthralling and exciting, in part due to the use of the video assistant referee (“VAR”). FIFA announced in April that VAR would be used at the 2018 World Cup for the first time. The use of VAR in football is limited to four specific situations. These are: (1) whether the ball has crossed the line for a goal; (2) whether a penalty should be awarded; (3) whether a direct red card should be shown; and (4) in cases of mistaken identity.   In the first 17 matches of the tournament, 10 penalties have been awarded. The most penalties ever awarded at a World Cup is 18, making it very likely that a new record will be set for penalties at this World Cup. During the England and Tunisia match on 18 June, it appeared that England should have been awarded at least two penalties. The referee did not spot the alleged infringement and did not receive notification from the video assistant referees that the incident should be reviewed and penalties awarded. On occasions, VAR has been used correctly. In the matches between France and Australia and Sweden and South Korea, penalties have been awarded and converted following the assistance of VAR. However, the latest controversy involving VAR took place during the Spain and Iran match on 20 June. Spain led 1-0 when it appeared that Iran had equalised. The referee consulted VAR and confirmed that the player, who scored the goal, was, actually, in an offside position and the goal was eventually disallowed. Following the match, Iran’s coach, Carlos Queiroz stated that the introduction of VAR adds to the “credibility” of football. Queiroz further stated: “For me, as a trainer, VAR is coming too late. If we had it six months later, maybe today, we had an added point, but it’s good for the credibility of football”. There is no doubt that, in the long-term, the use of VAR will help improve credibility and eradicate errors. VAR is still in its infancy and many of the referees at the World Cup have not used it previously. So far in the World Cup, VAR has been used fairly effectively and there has not been any major incorrect decisions that have altered the outcome of a game. There is still three weeks of the tournament left and there is the potential for VAR to become a big talking point of the 2018 World Cup. Jonathan Copping may be contacted by e-mail at ‘This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

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